The orange and white patrol cars of the Sam Houston State University Police Department patrolling around campus are ubiquitous, so woven into the fabric that they are only noticeable when more than one arrives at a scene or, worse, their lights appear in the rearview mirror.
But what do the patrollers see? What happens on campus on a typical day or night through the eyes of an UPD officer?
A snapshot into a ten hour shift of a UPD officer provides a better understanding of “a day in the life.”
Kevin Hansford, currently a UPD officer, got a parking ticket in March 2004; he was a student at SHSU and went in to UPD to pay his ticket.
He saw an officer and asked if they were hiring and got hired as a student employee. After working there for a little over a year they saw qualities in him that they thought would be good as an officer at UPD. He graduated the police academy in September 2005 and received his badge.
Hansford’s day doesn’t begin at 8 a.m. like most other working people in Huntsville. He works the later shift, going on duty at 4 p.m. and finishing his shift at 2 a.m. if he’s lucky and doesn’t have arrests or paperwork to finish.
Hansford patrols around campus and Huntsville. UPD officers have jurisdiction on campus and the city. They often assist Huntsville Police Department with their calls and are on the same radio frequencies.
The following is an account of Hansford’s Thursday night shift.
While patrolling through Shenanigan’s parking lot late at night – a busy night for bars in town – Hansford observes a man standing outside of his vehicle in the back parking lot. He is not wearing any pants.
“What are you doing?” Hansford asks. It seemed a reasonable question.
“They wouldn’t let me inside because my shorts went below my knees, so I had to come out here and put some pants on so I could go in,” the man replied, revealing a trunk full of clothes.
Later still, while patrolling the Gateway at Huntsville parking lots, Hansford observes a group of women drinking outside a building.
“Is everything okay?” Hansford asks.
“We are on the way inside the apartment,” the women reply.
Later that night, these same women would be pulled over by another officer, their vehicle searched. They were barely able to walk straight on the road.
“One of the enjoyable things about being a peace officer is that every day when you go to work, you never know exactly what you may see or what you will encounter, and that includes slow days,” James Fitch, Deputy Chief of the University Police Department said.
But not every encounter is strange. Most are routine warnings and offers of assistance. Hansford’s shift also includes the following:
Later, while driving by Sam Houston Village, a couple was seen not wearing their seatbelts in a Chevy Suburban. Their windows are down, so Hansford rolls down his window.
“Put your seatbelts on,” Hansford orders.
Hansford said, “after working as a police officer here in Huntsville for this long, I’m not all about pulling people over and writing tickets, but making people more aware of their mistakes and just correcting them.”